We begin writing for a number of reasons. Here are the most common I can think of. Maybe you can think of others.
- We're good at it. It has always come naturally to us.
- We believe we have a unique story to tell and we're eager to share it with the world.
- Someone else has written about our experience(s) but didn't do the story justice. We know we can tell it as it deserves to be told.
- People seem impressed if we says we're writers. We feel special to be among the few with a gift for language.
- We believe it's a route to becoming rich or famous or both.
When we begin, we may believe that writing is our destiny, that we are uniquely suited to the solitary but glamorous (in our minds) life of a writer.
Unfortunately, none of these beliefs and attitudes about ourselves and the writing process stand up once we begin.
- Experience shows us that facility with language is a far cry from effective writing. We quickly discover that our skills need serious development and honing.
- Our unique story, it turns out, is not so unique after all. There are only a few stories in the world and they have all been told by others long before we took up writing. The only thing unique about our story is that it happened to us.
- Writing is difficult. Those who came before us may have failed to do our story justice, but we find that, in our hands, it fares no better at first. A long apprenticeship is required before our story comes to life.
- While people may be impressed when we say we're writers, they become far less enthused when we don't produce anything worth reading for years. And eventually we stop proclaiming our specialness.
- Almost no one becomes either rich or famous from writing. For every J.K. Rowling, there are a million unknown, unsung writers who are talented, skillful and deserving of an audience.
So why continue?
WRITING IS HARD. AND USUALLY NO ONE IS STANDING NEXT TO US CHEERING US ON AS WE STRUGGLE TO LEARN OUR CRAFT.
There is nothing glamorous, or even very interesting about sitting in front of a keyboard for hours, alone and bleary-eyed, trying to get a scene right.
And once we finish and send our efforts out into the world--no doubt dreaming of quick publication and TV interviews--we are in for a terrible letdown. Because the rejections begin pouring in, usually in the form of form letters, but sometimes with comments or suggestions which prove that the agent or publisher barely looked at our work. Or didn't read it at all.
And once we realize we will not be published any time soon, we may decide to take matters into our own hands and self-publish. Take it directly to the people. Let the readers have access to our work without the clumsiness of a middle man.
And that's when we learn that not only do we have to be good writers, we also have to learn how to market our work. We have to advertise it, beat the drums for it, sell it.
MANY OF US ARE LOUSY MARKETERS AND SALESPEOPLE.
So, back to my original question: what is it that keeps us writing?
I have my own set of answers that I've developed over time. I'll share these with you next week. In the meantime, I'd love to hear what motivates you to stay focused and committed.
LET ME KNOW!